Nostalgia rings loud and clear this time of year—scents, songs, books, movies. My mother passed away two years ago, and my childhood (and adulthood) memories with her practically explode this time of year. Our main December holiday in my family is Christmas, and my mother made this holiday so special for us. From parties to games to crafts, cookies, books, music, cards, service, prayers and more! All those singing stuffed animals in our hallway? Gifts to my kids from my mom. The burlap Advent Calendar hanging on our wall? My mom made it. The ornaments on our tree with permanent marker dates on the bottom? My mom dated of all of those.
While nostalia comes in many forms, one thing that harkens me back to the magic of childhood Christmas is simply: Christmas movies. Those classic tales of Frosty, Rudoph, Santa that we had to look up on the tv guide to see when they would be airing, and on what channel (yes, I’m that old!). They gave legitimate explanations to curious children of how Santa could fit through a chimney; they made us laugh when Clark Griswald looked up at the monstrous tree in the woods and told his doubting son, “It’s not going in our yard, Russ. It’s going in our living room.”; they made us want to be kind to those who are different, because, as Rudolph taught us, everyone is special with a unique gift. My mom and I watched a lot of Christmas movies together and I treasured those warm evenings under a blanket. But besides the main shows we’ve heard of, below are three movies which I loved, and which many people I’ve spoken to have not seen. So if you’re looking for a new Christmas movie these season, take a chance on one of these worthwhile films.
1. Joyeux Noel: This movie blew my little snowflake socks off. Years ago, this must have come up as a recommendation from Netflix or a friend...I'm not even sure anymore, but this has got to be one of the most meaningful and unique Christmas movies out there. You MUST SEE THIS. So what makes it so different? It's kind of a war movie, but...not really. It takes place during WWI on the Front Lines between French, Scottish and German troops. On Christmas Eve, they set down their differences and guns, play Christmas music on Scottish bagpipes, light German pine trees and drink French ale together, coming forth to celebrate together in the snow into "no man's land." The relationships formed through their battle, and on this night, give me chills, and the aftermath of the decision to lay down arms and share together also gives me chills. It's funny, heart-warming, dramatic and touching. This is based on multiple true events and real stories soldiers shared (not all were so discrete about this very big "no-no" they engaged in, when writing letters home!). If you don't like war movies, trust me, you will like this one. If you do like war movies, then enjoy seeing one from a slightly different perspective. It brings to light real Christmas spirit, without Santa, elves or magic. It unites, tears down barriers (literally), and also reminds us of how heart-breaking war truly is to the individuals who are having to make the ultimate sacrifice.
2. Nestor, the Long-Eared Donkey: Think Dumbo meets Bambi meets Rudolf meets Bethlehem. An adorable outcast donkey with long ears, a self-sacrificing mother, and a journey to find his place in this world. Done in the 1977 stop-animation style that immediately makes me want to sip hot chocolate, this short movie found a very special place in my heart. For years after, when I was a tiny child, my mom would double-check my bath and say, "Ears, Nestor..."
3. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: When the "hoodlum" kids in town take over an otherwise stuffy production of the Nativity Story, Bethlehem starts to get real. It's a book, it's a play, but I know the 1983 movie version that is still on VHS tape at my parents' house. I watched it just last year with my then 2 and 5 year old boys and the stoic acting of the children still gets me. The production is heart-warming, funny, and I'll say it, "classic."
I could really go on and on, but time is short this Christmas season, so if you have the chance to check out any of these movies, keep an open mind, and enjoy! :) Merry Christmas!
Share your thoughts: What are some of your favorite Christmas movies? Do you know any which are a bit more obscure?